Article sourced from the Santa Clarita Valley Signal
The blockbuster movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” may be playing at multiple screens in theaters around the country, but its marketing materials are expertly handled behind the scenes by Vision Media Management.
And, the Valencia-based firm just had a blockbuster event of its own. Private equity firm, CenterGate Capital, has just bet big on Vision, making a sizeable investment in the firm.
“Today I’m so happy for our people, our employees, our Vision family, and thrilled for our clients,” said Founder Michael Alvarez. “This re-capitalization from a phenomenal partner, CenterGate Capital, has given us such great opportunities on so many levels.”
A provider of fulfillment services and technology solutions to entertainment and consumer product clients, Vision Media Management has worked with every major movie studio and TV network, describing itself as having “one foot in the physical distribution world and one foot in the technology sector of the business.”
But perhaps even more notable is the fact that, although the company has changed ownership hands twice, each time it has landed squarely back under the direction of the man who has energetically nurtured his vision for the past three decades. That unbridled passion just attracted a big round of financing. Alvarez will continue to lead the company as CEO and President, and serve on the company’s Board.
Using his signing bonus when he was first drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, Alvarez started the company with close family friends, the Russells, in 1986. In 2002, they sold the company to Deluxe Entertainment Services Group. He stayed on to continue running the operation.
In 2014, however, Alvarez bought the company back using a bridge loan with a 36-month payoff period to acquire the company he started, and reportedly increased the value more than three-fold in less than two years.
Reportedly, Alvarez paid between $17 and $18 million to buy his firm back in 2014. And rumors are that he just sold a percentage of it for $75 million on Jan. 26, 2016.
“I can’t comment on any specific numbers,” Alvarez said. “I can just tell you that Deluxe was kind enough to sell the company back to me at a fair price, and that CenterGate’s investment was an unbelievable event. Our team was able to show we had an even larger share of the marketplace and that we had created even more value.”
Whatever the actual dollar amount is, Alvarez said CenterGate’s investment has given the company an incredible shot at even greater growth in its ability to extend more services to its clients.
“We met with 12 different banks over time,” Alvarez said. “But, CenterGate wanted our business. We are thrilled to partner with them in the future. Everything they told us was all as advertised – they nailed it.”
Going in new directions the past few years has led to Vision Media Management’s growth.
Not only does it support the traditional warehousing and order fulfillment model, Vision also built an asset management system for many of today’s top studios via an automated fulfillment system called VMx. And it offers a secure portal for digital distribution of watermarked materials
“Vision represents several lines of business,” Alvarez said. “One focuses just on technology; building apps or websites, creating web portals, streamlining content, coding of content or even watermarking. It also has a business that relates to filming; picking and packing the content of materials going to end users, whether it’s a T-shirt, cap or other product.
Vision helps them market their brand. We work as an extension of our clients. We put no limitation on our clients’ ability to be creative.”
Those clients range from Sony, Warner Brothers, Fox and Universal to consumer-based companies like Ikea, Sam’s Club, John Paul Mitchell, and more. But, the film business is especially conducive to Santa Clarita. For the studios, it provides theatrical fulfillment services which include the distribution of theatrical one-sheets such as the posters promoting a film or show, trailers, and self-standing promotional displays.
“We’re excited for Valencia because the business here; Hollywood (the industry) is strong in Valencia,” Alvarez said. “A large portion of our business is about supporting Hollywood. We help several divisions within a studio to get their products out. We are concierges to this business.”
But for now, Alvarez is laser focused on moving the company to the next level.
Vision Media Management has one million square feet of warehouse space between Valencia and Tejon, Alvarez said. Stateside it has locations in the Midwest, Louisville, and internationally; it also has locations in London, Australia, and a facility near China – all to serve international clients.
“We have over 50,000 pallets of material right now,” he said.
But having grown the company over the years, Alvarez says he still hasn’t forgotten the people from the families that helped along the way. He still has a huge appreciation for both the Russell and Wenrich families whom he worked with as he grew the business, he said; as well as for the employees.
With more than 200 employees to support its global presence, the company has employees who began as teenagers but who have remained with the firm. Employees have an average of 15 to 20 years tenure, he said. And he feels good that his own bloodline is part of the legacy, with his brother working in the operation, as well as his son who has now joined the finance team.
“Every day I think about the fact that I’m a big part of making sure people and their families are eating; that we continue to provide opportunities to people. In order to do that, we have to have impeccable service and work with people who truly care about our clients’ products.”
The investment CenterGate made helps secure an even stronger future for those employees and allows the company to turn future challenges into even greater opportunities, he said. It allows immediate growth and puts the firm in a position to look at future acquisitions. As for the employees, they and the community benefit, as well.
“A large portion of our workforce is coming from Santa Clarita,” Alvarez said. “They help support our restaurants, churches, and sports teams so that everyone prospers. We are so excited to have this business in this unbelievable community.”
With the new investment, will Alvarez consider retiring?
“My goodness, no,” he said. “The money will never define me. What defines me is how I lead this company into the future. With the new partnership and C-level team, we are all excited to take on the future. I’m also a father and I want my kids to see me continue to lead.”